KABOOM! KABOOM! KABOOM! KABOOM! KABOOM! KABOOM!
Anyone remember hearing constant KABOOMs last July as we celebrated Independence Day and Pioneer Day?
A new law allowing the sale of aerial fireworks went into effect just in time for Independence Day and Pioneer day last year. We learned something important about Utahns as we observed the firework use last July.
Utahns like fireworks and we really, really like the new aerial fireworks. Fireworks sales jumped $8 million in one year due to the new aerial fireworks and the changes to the discharge time limit. The other thing we learned is that while many people enjoyed these new freedoms, many people did not.
As our state fire marshall, Brent Halladay, put it this way after receiving a myriad of complaints, "the fireworks last year were too long, too loud, and too late."
During the 2011 Legislature, we passed a law allowing for a new class of aerial fireworks to be sold in Utah. As a part of the review of firework usage, the Legislature also reviewed the time limits for the discharge of fireworks. The old law allowed for the discharge of fireworks three days before and three days after the July holidays.
Sales of fireworks could start before the discharge window, which created a disconnect between being able to legally buy fireworks, but not being legally able to set them off. At the time it was thought that the existing time limit was not well understood by the public and so we sought to implement a time limit that was easier to understand. Under the 2011 law, fireworks of all classes could be purchased and discharged from June 26 to July 26 (and at New Year's Eve and Chinese New Year).
Aerial fireworks offer significantly more bang! than the traditional Class C fireworks allowed in Utah. Aerials are designed to shoot up to 150 feet into the air and then explode in brilliant colors. This type of firework was approved for sale and use in Utah because it has a lower risk of starting fire or causing injury when compared to other popular fireworks that shoot into the air like bottle rockets and roman candles. However, the aerials are loud when they explode. While many people expect fireworks late into the evening on July 4 and July 24 and plan accordingly, fireworks on a regular work week evening around July 15 aren't nearly as accepted. Local law enforcement fielded thousands of noise complaints because of the extremely loud nature of the aerial fireworks and the late-night discharging that didn't necessarily relate to the holiday.
These complaints went to mayors and city councils and ultimately to the Legislature. No one wanted to do away with the new fireworks, after all, people enjoyed them enough to buy $8 million worth in a 30-day period, but they did ask that the time limit for firework discharge be reduced.
The Legislature received the message loud and clear; modifying the firework law this session. Discharge days will return to the traditional three days before and three days after the July holidays. Fireworks discharge will be allowed until midnight on the holiday and until 11 p.m. on the other legal discharge days. There will be a blissful 12 days of silence between the legal discharge windows in July. New Year's Eve and Chinese New Year's Eve will also remain legal discharge and sales times until 1 a.m.
The case of aerials fireworks in Utah is a good example of how the process is supposed to work.
The Legislature made changes to a law that resulted in some positive and some negative impacts. After hearing from the public, we have addressed the negative impacts while preserving the positive parts of the law.
This is the type of feedback we need from the public in all areas of public policy.
Please pipe up and let us know when something isn't working as it should.
Brad Dee is the House majority leader. He represents House District 11, which covers portions of Davis and Weber counties.